The Storks of Böbs

The Storks of Böbs
A Very Fine Pair

Crema Catalana and Rhubarb compote

Crema Catalana and Rhubarb compote topped with an Italian Meringue


The Crema Catalana is not as many think and even some well known cooks declare with conviction a Spanish name for Crème Brule or Trinity Burnt Cream. It is a different animal, in fact as different as it is from one those packets declaring to be “original” Crema Catalana.

The Crema Catalana predates both of these and should really be called Crema San José as it is traditionally served on St Joseph’s day a Spanish High Christian Holiday and is Fathers Day in Spain. I think it is a great tradition and I think I will carry on the tradition.

Crema San José way predates the other interlopers and is thought to have been a Moorish-Jewish dish.

Another difference is the ingredients, it uses full milk (not a mixture of full cream and milk) and is flavoured with lemon and orange zest and Cinnamon bark. In the original recipes vanilla wasn’t used, but I used vanilla sugar for the pudding and the caramel topping. Also the pudding is cooked and then set in the refrigerator and not in a Bain Marie.

For six portions you shall require:

1.5 Ltr full milk
75g of caster sugar (mine was flavoured with vanilla as I make my own vanilla sugar)
9 large egg yolks (set the egg whites to one side you shall use three of them later)
60g of cornflour
Zest of 1 lemon (keep the lemon for the later dish)
Zest of 1 medium orange (about the size of a tennis ball)
1 Stick of cinnamon bark (about 7.5 cm long broken)

Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks keeping the whites for later.


Put the zests and the cinnamon into a heavy based saucepan add the milk and heat just below boiling point (you will see the surface just start to move), cover and set aside to infuse for an hour.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and creamy, then add the cornflour and combine completely.


Strain the warm milk through a sieve into the mixture stirring to combine completely. Pour into a clean sauce pan (I washed the original milk one) and heat over a medium heat, stirring constantly (you don’t want it to “set on”).

Keep stirring until the custard thickens, remove from the heat and pour into suitable low bowls, I have Spanish red clay ones that are perfect for this. Place in the refrigerator overnight to set.

Just prior to serving sprinkle the top with sugar and either blow lamp the sugar or if you have a special iron, heat this up until red hot and use this ( I think I shall make myself a one as it will get a more even caramel disk), and on reflection I think that brown sugar would be far better than my vanilla sugar, but we live and learn (next time).

As it was spring and a perfect spring fruit (is it a fruit?) would be Rhubarb, I had decided to make a rhubarb and stem ginger desert topped with an Italian meringue. This would be just the thing to cut through the richness of the Crema Catalan.

You shall require

For the rhubarb/ ginger base

800g of young rhubarb cut into bite sized pieces (note: use young as other wise it could be too tart and stringy)

20g of preserved stem ginger in syrup sliced and diced very fine

10ml of the syrup that the ginger is preserved in.

1 tsp of ground ginger

½ tsp of ground cinnamon

A grinding of chilli ( wonder how many picked that one out)

125 ml of water

250 ml of caster sugar

Add the ingredients to a saucepan and bring to the boil lower the heat until the rhubarb is tender and the sauce has started to go syrupy (you can adjust the level of tartness to suit your taste, but don’t forget the meringue topping will be sweet and it is nice to have a contrast).

Set aside (this will keep for quite a few days in the fridge and can then be heated up just prior to serving and putting together.

Place your rhubarb composition into ramekins and make your Italian Meringue. Here I follow the Gordon Ramsey method, you don’t need thermometers and it works every time (for me and for him).

Italian Meringue

Whites of 3 eggs (saved from the Crema Catalana, you could use the rest now and make a big batch of meringue or freeze for a later day)
180g of caster sugar (again I used my vanilla caster sugar)

100 ml of water

A few drops of lemon juice from half a lemon.


In a very clean bowl (rub it with the cut side of the lemon) add the egg whites and whisk until quite stiff,

add the squeeze of lemon juice, as Gordon said this will keep it brilliant and white.

Put the sugar and water onto a high heat when it boils, keep it on the high heat until it forms hard bubbles (they stay on the surface) it is now at the correct temperature,

remove from the heat and drizzle into the  whipped egg whites whisking at a medium speed all of the time,

when all of the sugar liquid is incorporated, turn the whisk up high and continue whisking until it is smooth and glossy (it should take on a fantastic lustre and hold the whish marks) it is now ready to use.

But first the Ramsay test!!!

Spoon this on top of the rhubarb and then when ready to serve give it a quick flame with the blow torch (you could put under a grill)

Serve them both together (you can heat any remaining syrup from the rhubarb until it goes almost to a caramel and drizzle this in ribbons over the top of the dessert.

And enjoy the decadence, we did!

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